Harvest Ball Tradition / Ritual in Outspoken | World Anvil

Harvest Ball

I watch the guests, all piled high with obscene amounts of fabric, frills, and lace. They range vastly in appearance and personality from boisterous to humble, stoic to jovial, and color fills the room like a rainbow set free from its deep blue cage.
Some guests are flamboyant, their clothing loud and boisterous, their mouths even more so, as if trying to make it perfectly clear that they have been numbered amongst Laird Sadach’s honored visitors. Others gaze about with wide eyes, their clothing lackluster and muted, their voices quiet, like they’re scared they made it here through some clerical error.
True to form, every one of them is masked, some hidden behind an elaborate mass of expensive and gaudy adornment, others hoping to avoid attention with a simple black frame not unlike my own.
— OUTSPOKEN, Book One, Chapter 15

Overview


In the reign of King Máirtín I, the great Festival of Samhain that once graced the halls of The Royal Palace of Éirigh was put to a sudden end. A year later, Laird Breith Sadach took up the neglected mantle, and the annual Harvest Ball was born.

History


Laird Sadach's annual Harvest Ball first occurred in the year 1476, a year after The First Great Dynastic Shift. It was met with great success, attended by the entirety of The Court of Lairds, and many Nobles. Though not quite as lavish as the Festival of Samhain celebrations once held at the Royal Palace, it certainly comes close.
Spoilers!
It is revealed in Book One of OUTSPOKEN that the Harvest Ball is actually a mere cover for Laird Sadach's more nefarious purposes. At first, it was meant to disguise a meeting of the Court of Lairds, where Laird Sadach called for a vote to remove King Máirtín I from the throne. When his first two attempts to garner a unanimous vote failed, Laird Sadach decided that the time had come to operate outside the law. For the last 14 years, the Harvest Ball has served as a secret meeting of The New Order as they planned their coup for the crown.
As my eyes adjust to the light, I notice a door tucked into the wall a few feet ahead, cracked open just enough to let a sliver of warm candlelight into the hall.
Stepping closer, I recognize the tones of some of the most powerful Lairds and nobles bickering in hushed tones. My conscience pricks at the back of my mind, knowing I shouldn’t be hearing this, and I soften my step, anxious to move past as quickly as possible without being noticed. Before I can walk away, Laird Sadach’s deep voice sends a shiver down my spine that freezes the blood in my veins.
“Silence! The decision has already been made. We wait out the winter, gathering our forces, and then we strike. It will take all of us, together, where he least expects it.”
-- OUTSPOKEN, Book One, Chapter 15


Execution


While the Harvest Ball itself is a one night event, the festivities are often extended for a two week period for the sake of distant Lairds and nobles in attendance. They are welcomed to stay in Laird Sadach's castle as his guests for as long as they wish, often enjoying a week or two wandering through his beautiful gardens and waiting for the sun to show its face before journeying home.

The event itself is heavily modeled after the traditional Samhain celebration once held in the Palace, filled with elegant garments, a feast fit for a king, endlessly flowing wine and whiskey, warm candlelight, and lavish decorations befitting for the fall season.

Participants


While Lairds and Nobles are expected to attend the Harvest Ball as honored guests, and Laird Sadach acts as the humble host of the event, the Knights of the land play a vital role as well.

The Harvest Ball has become the new event for young women of the upper classes to make their debut as eligible brides, and the knights of the kingdom are there to assist them with the annual Dance of the Maidens. This dazzling event is the highlight of the Ball every year, and will feed the noble rumor mill for the following 12 months. The knights belonging to every Laird in attendance are required to take part in the Ball until the Dance of the Maidens is complete.

On the other side of the class divide, Laird Sadach's staff and servants are responsible for ensuring that the entire event goes off without a hitch. Only the ladies in waiting, footmen, and kitchen staff are allowed within sight of the guests, and no servant is permitted to so much as make eye contact with the nobles present -- much less touch them. The minimal punishment for any infraction is a beating, and it's not out of the question for such a scandalous action to result in execution.

Observance


The Harvest Ball is held after the final collection of rents in in Laird Sadach's lands, typically in the last week of October.

Book One Insights

  The politics and expectations of the Harvest Ball put Lucian "Deordhan" Cathasach, the main character of OUTSPOKEN, in an incredibly difficult position. As one of Laird Sadach's knights, he is required to partake in the festivities, mingle with the nobles, and even dance with one of the young ladies in the Dance of the Maidens. As a Bond Servant that works in the stables, so much as being seen by them is punishable by death. But as a Deordhan, interacting with him is perhaps one of the greatest scandals any young Lady of the kingdom could endure. The tension of existing as a member of both classes is one of the major conflicts present in Book One.
 
The longer I watch these people interact with one another, the more tense and frustrated I become, tangled in all the intricacies of how one must carry themselves in the presence of the court. Even my clothing feels increasingly constricting, despite my gratitude for how it allows me to meld into the crowd. It all just seems like a grand, foolish waste. The customs of the nobles will forever puzzle me, just as my presence will always be a conundrum for them.
— OUTSPOKEN, Book One, Chapter 15

See Also


Dance of the Maidens
Tradition / Ritual | Dec 27, 2020

The highlight of the Harvest Ball, this tradition feeds the noble rumor mill for months to follow as the wealthiest maidens of Éirigh request a dance with the Knight of their choosing.




Cover image: by Photo by Dorothea OLDANI on Unsplash

Comments

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Dec 18, 2020 17:51 by Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull

This sounds like a really fun event - though I love the fact that it's actually a cover for nefarious purposes. I like how you have quotes from your novel here; that really adds to the article. :)

Dec 18, 2020 18:00 by Maybe Stewart

Thank you so much!